Reid plots strategy to force vote on Obama nominee

Reid plots strategy to force vote on Obama nominee
© Greg Nash

 

Senate Democrats say they may try to force a vote on President Obama’s nominee to the Supreme Court with an unusual procedural tactic.

“There are many procedural things we can do,” Senate Democratic Leader Harry ReidHarry Mason ReidThe Supreme Court vacancy — yet another congressional food fight Trump seeks to turn around campaign with Supreme Court fight On The Trail: Battle over Ginsburg replacement threatens to break Senate MORE (Nev.) said Tuesday when asked about the possibility of using a discharge resolution to bypass Republicans.

“That’s one thing we can do. Certainly we’ve got that in our arrow quiver, to do that and other things,” Reid said.

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Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Chuck GrassleyCharles (Chuck) Ernest GrassleyGOP lawmakers distance themselves from Trump comments on transfer of power The Hill's 12:30 Report: Ginsburg lies in repose Top GOP senators say Hunter Biden's work 'cast a shadow' over Obama Ukraine policy MORE (R-Iowa) said last week that Republicans can’t stop Reid from at least attempting the maneuver. 

“There’s nothing we can do about it. Under the rules of the United States Senate, that resolution can be offered any time,” he said at a town hall meeting in Iowa.

Reid emphasized, however, that he’s in no rush to file such a motion.

He and his Democratic colleagues want to keep the pressure on Republicans to hold hearings on the nominee, Judge Merrick Garland, believing they have the upper hand in the public relations battle.

“The obligation is for them to hold hearings and to have a vote. That’s in the Constitution,” Reid said. “Right now, we think we’re in a good place. The pressure’s on them, not on us.”

A senior Democratic aide described the discharge resolution as “a last resort.”  

But Republicans, by and large, have brushed off the pressure tactics. They argue that Reid took a different view in 2005, when Democrats were blocking then-President George W. Bush’s judicial nominees.

“The duties of the Senate are set forth in the Constitution of the United States. Nowhere in that document does it say the Senate has a duty to give presidential nominees a vote,” Reid said on the Senate floor nearly 11 years ago. “It says appointments shall be made with the advice and consent of the Senate. That is very different than saying every nominee receives a vote.” 

The discharge resolution has not been tried in recent memory, so few Senate insiders know exactly how the process would work.

Essentially, Reid or another Democrat would offer a motion to proceed to a resolution to discharge Garland’s nomination from the Judiciary Committee.

That would first require Democrats to win a simple majority vote to move into executive session. If achieved, Democrats would have to overcome a 60-vote hurdle to consider the motion to discharge, according to a senior Democratic aide.

All in all, Democrats would need to keep their ranks unified and persuade 14 Republicans to vote with them to pull Garland out of committee, an unlikely scenario.

Republicans control 54 Senate seats, and Democrats have 46. 

Yet Grassley last week implied the vote would be difficult for Republicans given Garland’s credentials and the general view that he is more moderate than other potential Democratic nominees. 

“Whenever they take this vote — whether it would be based on confirming the nomination or whether it’s based on a discharge — it’s still going to be a tough vote,” Grassley said. 

Only two Republicans, Sens. Susan CollinsSusan Margaret CollinsThe Hill's Campaign Report: Trump faces backlash after not committing to peaceful transition of power Billionaire who donated to Trump in 2016 donates to Biden Credit union group to spend million on Senate, House races MORE (Maine) and Mark KirkMark Steven KirkLiberal veterans group urges Biden to name Duckworth VP On the Trail: Senate GOP hopefuls tie themselves to Trump Biden campaign releases video to explain 'what really happened in Ukraine' MORE (Ill.), support holding confirmation hearings for Garland, a well-regarded jurist with nearly two decades of service on the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals.

Collins praised the nominee after meeting him Tuesday and urged her colleagues to hold a public review instead of rejecting him out of hand.

“My views are not a secret to my colleagues. I would encourage all of my colleagues to sit down with Judge Garland,” she told reporters. “I believe that that’s how the process should work and works best when we have these one-on-one meetings followed by public hearings.”  

Kirk called Garland “one of the most eminent jurists in the country” after meeting with him last week.   

But Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellTrump 'no longer angry' at Romney because of Supreme Court stance On The Money: Anxious Democrats push for vote on COVID-19 aid | Pelosi, Mnuchin ready to restart talks | Weekly jobless claims increase | Senate treads close to shutdown deadline The Hill's Campaign Report: Trump faces backlash after not committing to peaceful transition of power MORE’s (R-Ky.) conference has mostly held the line, arguing that the court vacancy should be left to the next president.

The number of Republican senators who supported hearings was initially four, but Sens. Lisa MurkowskiLisa Ann MurkowskiOVERNIGHT ENERGY:  House passes sweeping clean energy bill | Pebble Mine CEO resigns over secretly recorded comments about government officials  | Corporations roll out climate goals amid growing pressure to deliver The Hill's Morning Report - Sponsored by Facebook - Trump previews SCOTUS nominee as 'totally brilliant' Abortion stirs GOP tensions in Supreme Court fight MORE (Alaska) and Jerry MoranGerald (Jerry) MoranLobbying world This World Suicide Prevention Day, let's recommit to protecting the lives of our veterans Hillicon Valley: Zuckerberg acknowledges failure to take down Kenosha military group despite warnings | Election officials push back against concerns over mail-in voting, drop boxes MORE (Kan.) reversed themselves after getting strong pushback from GOP leaders and conservative activists.

Rep. Mike Pompeo (R-Kan.), who may be eyeing a primary challenge against Moran, criticized him for even opening the door to hearings. 

“I have consistently said, and continue to believe, that it is hopelessly and dangerously naive for Senator Moran to expect that President Obama would appoint a believer in the appropriate judicial role and basic interpretation of the U.S. Constitution,” Pompeo said Monday in a statement.

Reid insisted Tuesday that Democrats have momentum in the fight over Garland.

“We feel we’re making progress,” he said, noting that 20 editorials have been written in Iowa criticizing Grassley’s decision not to hold hearings. 

The Des Moines Register wrote Monday that Grassley “seems just fine with stalemate,” referring to the two 4-4 ties on the Supreme Court since conservative Justice Antonin Scalia died in mid-February.

Reid added that Grassley now has a more competitive reelection race. Democrats have recruited former Iowa Lt. Gov. Patty Judge, the toughest opponent he has faced in years.

“No one thought he would have a race,” he added. “This is a real drag on the Republicans.”

Reid noted that more than a dozen Senate Republicans have agreed to meet with Garland, although most have made clear they will do so only as a courtesy.

In addition to Kirk and Collins, at least 15 other Republicans have voiced willingness to meet. They are Sens. Kelly AyotteKelly Ann AyotteBottom line Bottom line Bottom Line MORE (N.H.), John BoozmanJohn Nichols BoozmanCOVID-19 relief talks look dead until September  Senate GOP hedges on attending Trump's convention amid coronavirus uptick The Hill's Coronavirus Report: San Francisco Gay Men's Chorus Artistic Director Tim Seelig says choirs are dangerous; Pence says, 'We have saved lives' MORE (Ark.), Bill Cassidy (La.), Jeff FlakeJeffrey (Jeff) Lane FlakeHow fast population growth made Arizona a swing state Jeff Flake: Republicans 'should hold the same position' on SCOTUS vacancy as 2016 Republican former Michigan governor says he's voting for Biden MORE (Ariz.), Grassley, Orrin HatchOrrin Grant HatchBottom line Bottom line Senate GOP divided over whether they'd fill Supreme Court vacancy  MORE (Utah), James InhofeJames (Jim) Mountain InhofeChamber of Commerce endorses McSally for reelection Overnight Defense: Top admiral says 'no condition' where US should conduct nuclear test 'at this time' | Intelligence chief says Congress will get some in-person election security briefings Top admiral: 'No condition' where US should conduct nuclear test 'at this time' MORE (Okla.), Ron JohnsonRonald (Ron) Harold JohnsonThe Hill's Morning Report - Sponsored by Facebook - Trump previews SCOTUS nominee as 'totally brilliant' The Hill's 12:30 Report: Ginsburg lies in repose CHC leaders urge Senate to oppose Chad Wolf nomination  MORE (Wis.), James Lankford (Okla.), Moran, Murkowski, Rob PortmanRobert (Rob) Jones PortmanMcConnell locks down key GOP votes in Supreme Court fight Romney undecided on authorizing subpoenas for GOP Obama-era probes Congress needs to prioritize government digital service delivery MORE (Ohio), Mike Rounds (S.D.), Marco RubioMarco Antonio RubioGOP lawmakers distance themselves from Trump comments on transfer of power McConnell pushes back on Trump: 'There will be an orderly transition' Graham vows GOP will accept election results after Trump comments MORE (Fla.) and Pat Toomey (Pa.).

Ayotte, Portman, Murkowski and Flake are scheduled to meet with Garland next week.

Updated at 8:08 p.m.